Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Greece is the Word. Have you Heard?


Sorry I haven't posted for a while but I've been on holiday and, on my return, had to get stuck into a pile of line edits that my editor sent me just before I went away (I deliberately didn't look at them until I came home in case I went into panic mode). Now the edits are done, I can concentrate on carrying on with novel two. It's taking a while to get into the swing of it but it's slowly taking shape and, today, I reached the halfway mark which I'm happy about.


As always, our Greek holiday was fantastic. This year we tried a new island, Meganissi (sometimes spelt Meganisi) and it was exactly as we'd imagined it - small but perfectly formed. In fact, with its little harbour, hilltop villages, green slopes and pebble beaches (not to mention the flotillas that moored up each evening) it reminded us of our two previous Greek holidays in Ithaca and Paxos. Above, is a picture of the little house we stayed in. We had our own pool with a gorgeous view which we sadly shared with several wasps (Ian got stung between his toes on the last day) and some rather scary looking hornets (which luckily weren't interested in us at all).


So what does this writer do when she's on holiday? Write?

No. 

I read lots, ate delicious food, drank Mythos beer and swam - not necessarily in that order! One day, we hired a little boat. Mooring up in deserted bays and swimming in the crystal clear water was heavenly - until we ran aground and damaged our propeller. As if that wasn't bad enough, we then found, once we'd left the shelter of the harbour and were setting off home, that the wind had picked up and there were waves. I absolutely do not 'do' waves.

The only way I could cope with the journey back was by taking the wheel. It was better than being a passenger and awaiting my fate in the choppy water. "We'll be alright, won't we?" I was heard to say more than once to my husband. Needless to say (as you're reading this) we got back unscathed.


The harbour town of Vathi was the perfect place to have lunch and watch the sailing boats come and go. Each day, we'd choose something different to accompany our Greek salad. These are the delicious courgettes in tempura batter we had for one of our lunches. This year, we also discovered Portokalopita for the first time. It's a type of Greek orange drizzle cake and was absolutely delicious.


To counteract all this lovely food we were eating, we made sure we went to a beach for a swim at some point every day. The beaches in Meganissi are all pebble (ranging from shingle to large white stones) but that is how we like it as it makes the sea even clearer and turns it the most beautiful shade of blue/green. Usually, we'd stroll down at around six in the evening, when the weather was cooler, and have the beach to ourselves but, on a couple of days, we treated ourselves to a whole day at one of the two 'organised' beaches. This meant a sunbed and shade and a beach taverna.


The photo above was Fanari beach with its great taverna playing reggae music (sounds strange but it works). As you can see from the photograph at the top of this post, it looks very Caribbean! The other organised beach we went to was at Spilia. A storm was brewing, which made for a great photo, and we huddled under the sunshades as lightning forked the sky and the heavens opened. It lasted about half an hour and was quite exciting!


So now I'm home again and have been chuffed to find that I've had five stories published over the last two weeks in three different magazines. It doesn't always happen like this I can tell you. I've made a little montage of them because it makes me happy... but maybe not as happy as going to Greece!


Friday, 31 August 2018

Welcome Back Samantha Tonge!


The last month or so has been a whirlwind of returning guests, and don't I just love it - especially when they are ones I've known all my writing life. Today I'm delighted to welcome back my very special guest, Samantha Tonge, for her fourth appearance on Wendy's Writing Now. Samantha has been on quite a journey recently and has openly talked about her struggle when wine O'clock become something bigger. Since then, she's made huge changes in her life and one of these is a new direction in her writing.

I'll let Sam tell you about it.

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about a writer’s voice and exactly what it is. The first book I wrote -  not my debut Doubting Abbey, published in 2013, but my very first attempt at writing back in 2005 – was not comedic. My second and all the ones to follow were. In real life I’m the sort of person to crack one-liners and laugh with people I know (and don’t, to my children’s embarrassment) and I think I decided that romantic comedy was more me because of this. Plus at the time I got feedback from an editorial agency saying that they felt I was very near the point of finding my writing voice and I took that to mean I was doing the right thing, writing as I spoke.

It certainly felt natural and I went on, eventually, to have nine romantic comedies published, the last this May, One Summer in Rome.

I say the last because in recent years I’ve faced some mental health challenges and there came a point, in 2017, when I had to tell my agent I couldn’t write comedy anymore. It just wasn’t in me to crack one-liners. Less of that was happening in real life and I suppose it’s obvious that would affect my work as a writer. In 2016 I’d found myself with a wine o’clock problem that had got out of control and it was whilst recovering from that I changed direction and wrote my first women’s fiction novel Forgive Me Not. It has just been published by the wonderful Canelo.





On the back of that I thought that very first book I wrote must have been the real authorly me and I’d just gone back to that.

But then the reviews started to come in for Forgive Me Not. Here are some examples...

You will still find the same warmth and love just like in her other stories.”

“This book has a harder edge to it but the characters and plot were equally as compelling.”

“Samantha’s writing style has the knack of drawing me in making it her books extremely difficult to put it down.”

Heartwarming & heartbreaking in equal measure – love @SamTongeWriter's new direction.”

Whilst reviewers acknowledge that Forgive Me Not heralds a very new direction for my writing, they can clearly see common ground. And the same words keep coming up as in reviews for my romcoms – warm, emotional, heartfelt… so all of this leads me to question exactly what voice is.

And I’ve concluded that, for me, it’s not the tone – i.e. whether the book is comedic or serious – no, it’s about warmth. All of my novels have featured characters and communities pulling together, for example, and Forgive Me Not is no different – the economy of the little village of Healdbury is under threat from a new out-of-town hypermarket and so locals pull together to save their businesses. There’s also a warm-hearted thread about charity and acceptance connected to the grittier subject of homelessness.

I suspect whatever genre I wrote that voice of mine would be there. If I wrote about zombies alongside the gruesome deaths I’d probably have one who was vegetarian, like the shark in Nemo, who was trying to save the humans.

So I think readers help you identify exactly what your voice is – what it is, about your writing, that inspires them to buy your next book. It may not be the tone or the style or feel. Or it might be. But, whatever it is, it’s unique to you.


You can buy Forgive Me Not HERE


You can find out more about Samantha by following the links below:



Samantha Tonge lives in Manchester UK. She studied German and French at university and has travelled widely.

When not writing she passes her days cycling, baking and drinking coffee. Samantha has sold many dozens of short stories to women’s magazines. 

Her bestselling 2013 debut novel, Doubting Abbey, was shortlisted for the Festival of Romantic Fiction best Ebook award. In 2015 her summer novel, Game of Scones, hit #5 in the UK Kindle chart and won the Love Stories Awards Best Romantic Ebook category. Her new novel, Forgive Me Not, heralds a new direction with publisher Canelo, and is a story about acceptance, forgiveness and trying to put things right.

Thursday, 23 August 2018

I did it! I'm going to be a published author!


I apologise if this post sounds over-excited, and may contain a surfeit of capitals and exclamations, but it's a blog post I've been longing to write for a very long time... and, at last I can. 

Drum roll.... I have a publisher!

Most of you will have already heard by now that, on Tuesday, the publisher, Bookouture, made this announcement:

SO DELIGHTED to share that we have signed a deal for two psychological thrillers from Flash500 Novel Competition winner WENDY CLARKE.

If that doesn't deserve a squeal or two, nothing does! I am absolutely thrilled.

You can read the full announcement from Bookouture HERE

My journey with Bookouture began at the end of May when, despite winning the Flash500 novel competition, having a glowing report from my NWS reader, six full  manuscript requests from agents and unsolicited approaches from two major publishers, months and months had gone by and things were still not happening. I was growing weary of all the waiting - wondering if six months was too early to politely enquire after my novel only to do so and have it rejected by return of email or, worse still, to have no reply at all. I was constantly scared of doing the wrong thing: not wanting to upset anyone and spoil my chances but not wanting my submission to have fallen down the back of the metaphorical filing cabinet. 

Anyone who's been down this route will know what I'm talking about.

Little by little, my confidence was ebbing away, leaving me wondering whether maybe my novel was rubbish despite the evidence to the contrary.

Then I had a light bulb moment. Why was I not listening to what many of my writer friends had been telling me for a while? Rather than waiting for an agent to find a deal for me, why wasn't I looking for one myself?  

Bookouture was top of my list having been recommended to me by my lovely friend Liz Eeles who writes for them. Also, Bookouture publishes Kerry Fisher and Louise Jensen whose books I love. In fact, I'd heard only amazing things about this publisher and when I submitted my manuscript I was expecting another nail-biting wait as I knew competition would be high.

Imagine my delight and amazement when, the very next day, I received an email from my fabulous editor, Jennifer Hunt, to say that she'd just started reading my novel. She wanted to let me know that she was already enthralled by it and swept away by my characters' stories. She'd be in touch very soon.

Very soon was indeed VERY soon! Just four days later, I received another email from Jennifer telling me she thought I'd written such a page-turner she'd read it twice. Could we speak on the phone? I was shocked  and very nervous but, when that call happened, I knew straight away that I'd found the perfect home for my novel. In Jennifer, I'd found that person (aside from my NWS reader) who felt as passionately about my work as I did. Not only that - someone who was as excited at the prospect of working with me as I was with them.

It didn't take me long to say a big YES to their offer of a two-book deal. In Jennifer's words - it looked like we were a 'great match'

So this is the news I've had to hold close to my chest for three months while the wheels have been set in motion. During that time, I've been working with my editor on the structural edits of book one (which are now done) and have started book two.

On Tuesday, the announcement was finally made and everything went crazy! Here is a screenshot from Twitter to give you an idea.



I spent most of the afternoon glued to my computer screen, chatting to people on Facebook, re-tweeting messages of support and thanking people for their incredibly heartfelt congratulations. It was, in a word (or two), overwhelming and very emotional.

So, thank you all for travelling this journey with me and for your support and encouragement (especially you, Tracy Fells).

Now the hard work begins!



Monday, 13 August 2018

Moving On (a bit)


Six years ago, I started writing for the women's magazine market (womags). I've been very lucky and have had a lot of success over that time, with around three hundred stories published. In fact, apart from marriage and having children, the day I made my first short story sale was one of my best ever. This's why I felt very sad this week when I had to tell my favourite magazine, The People's Friend, that I will no longer be able to write as many stories for them.

The reason for this is I really need to concentrate on the novel I'm writing. Most of you will know that I've already written two novels (one of them won the Flash 500 Novel Opening and Synopsis competition and the other recently made the top five of the Simon and Schuster/Darley Anderson novel competition) and I feel that novel writing is the natural next stage of my writing career.

And herein lies the problem. When I wrote my first novels, I continued to write short stories alongside them but I constantly felt guilty. When I was writing my novel, I felt I should be writing a short story and, when I was writing a short story, I felt I should be writing my novel. 


The other problem was whenever I had a break and spent time with a cast of new  characters, a new story plot and, quite likely, a totally different genre to my novels (last week I had stories published in the genres of contemporary romance, rom-com and a swashbuckling period romance)
I found it hard to switch back into my novel characters' heads and write in the style of my genre (suspense).

That's why, now I've started writing novel three, and after much soul searching, I've decided I really need to concentrate on getting this one as good as it can be without distraction. My editor at The Friend is super-lovely and, when I wrote to him last week, he understood why I'd made this decision. He's always championed me and my writing and I owe him a lot. I did reassure him that it was not goodbye it was just au revoir for a little while and I would write him another story just as soon as I can.

Have you ever had to make a hard decision?



Monday, 30 July 2018

The Long and the Short of it - Guest Post Vivien Brown


I am always thrilled when authors who I've met and liked in 'real life' ask if they can be a guest on Wendy's Writing Now. Vivien Brown, who started her writing life as a fellow magazine writer, is one of those lovely people. In fact, it is Viv's third visit to my blog and I'm delighted to welcome her back as part of her blog tour for her second novel, Five Unforgivable Things, which was was published on 26th July by Harper Impulse.

Today, she's here to talk about how she's found the switch from writing magazine stories to novels. This will be of particular interest to those writers who are are struggling to make sales in the ever-decreasing magazine market and are considering writing something longer.

Over to you, Vivien.



THE LONG AND THE SHORT OF IT

After more than twenty years of writing short stories for the women’s magazines, the switch to novels has been a real eye-opener for me. Now I have had two published and I’ve finally proved to myself that I can actually sustain a storyline that’s about a hundred times longer than the ones I’ve been used to… but I’ve found length is far from the only difference between the two disciplines.

1.      How long is a piece of string?

Although I have always loved writing women’s magazine short stories, the womag world is very restrictive in terms of story length. Stories have to fit into a magazine which has a set number of pages, and they have to share space with all the features, letters pages, poems, and, of course, adverts. Editors have strict guidelines about length, so a 1000 word story might fit perfectly on the page that’s been set aside for it, but a 900 or 1100 word story will not. There is sometimes a little wriggle room if the story is too short, in that an editor can choose to fill unused space by using a bigger illustration, and in theory it’s possible to make space for a few more words by not using a picture at all, but generally speaking the only thing to do when a story is too long is to cut it down to fit the page… because one thing you can be sure of is that the page cannot be made bigger to fit the story! The more over-the-limit your story is, the more words will have to go. A scene, a piece of dialogue, a description… if it’s not absolutely necessary, it may have to be cut. And that can hurt!

Novels, I am so glad to say, don’t work that way. How long is a novel? Well, how long is a piece of string? In other words, how long do you want it to be? Because, as a novelist, you can choose! Anything from around 70,000 to 120,000 words is perfectly acceptable, and there are always exceptions to either side of those figures too, depending on your genre and who your publisher is. The word count for ‘Five Unforgivable Things’ went up and down as the book was edited, and finished up at around 105,000, with the odd thousand or two words one way or the other really being neither here nor there. The important thing was to tell the story… and then stop!

In a novel there’s room for that detailed description of the scenery you really loved writing, all the back-story you need to help you add richness and explain motivation, more room for those essential pages of character-revealing dialogue, and the opportunity to include a prologue, lots of twists and turns, and as many sub-plots as you like. That’s not to say you should waffle on to your heart’s content. More words still have to be good words. Readers want action, and characters they can identify with, and emotion in bucket-loads… and we don’t want them to get bored or wonder when the end is ever going to come! But I have definitely found that having that wider canvas to work with, after years of word-counting and cutting, is very liberating.

2.      Characters coming out of my ears!

Apart from the odd un-named waiter or the man driving the bus, it’s almost impossible to get away with having more than three or four main named characters at the most in a magazine story. In a tale that can be read in five or ten minutes, rather than the many days it might take to read a whole novel, there just isn’t time to introduce more, and we do need to give the poor reader a chance to get to know who they all are. In fact, many short stories have just one or two. Imagine a novel trying to do that!

And, as for points of view, writing your short story from more than just one or two is not likely to work. The reader is just getting into one person’s head, starting to understand who they are and what they want, when she is expected to swap to another… there just isn’t time to do it well.

In ‘Five Unforgivable Things’ I have six main characters, five of whom are ‘POV’ characters, each taking their turn to tell their part of the story. By giving them a chapter each before I ‘switch heads’, I am even able to jump back and forth, between chapters, from a first to a third person narrative - something I could never get away with in a short story. There are other minor characters too – people my ‘mains’ talk to at work, friends and relatives, and one or two they might get romantically involved with. In a novel, there’s room for as many as I need to tell the story without them having to be mere walk-on extras. At a rough count, in this novel I have probably got at least a dozen of these, and there’s room, and time, to get to know them all!


3.      No sex please, we’re The People’s Friend!

Themes! This is where the really big difference comes in. And by themes I mean the subjects I am allowed to write about. In the years I have been writing for The People’s Friend I have noticed a slow but important shift in what a story may contain. Not so long ago the characters could not be divorced, nobody had affairs or babies outside marriage, there was no violence, no ghosts, nothing too heartbreakingly sad, and absolutely never any mention of actual sex! I am proud to say I wrote the first baby-out-of-wedlock story and I believe the first disabled-child story for the magazine, so I know things are changing as they try to catch up with the modern world. Some of the other magazines have adopted a more liberal attitude, but even so it would be rare to find anything really tragic or depressing or ‘downbeat’ in a womag story. No nasty accidents, gory deaths, scary goings-on, or blatantly sexual content. It’s not what readers want when enjoying their coffee break read.

I am not saying that novels should be packed with the ‘bad stuff’ but there is room to explore it, and room for it to be resolved, so even novels where sad things happen can have their happy endings. And so ‘Five Unforgivable Things’ reflects real life, warts and all. There is infertility and miscarriage, there are relationship breakdowns, people tell lies and don’t always act as honourably as they might, and there are hospital scenes that just might make you cry, but in amongst all that there is love, romance, friendship, family, career fulfilment, and moments of joy. The book is not ‘about’ the bad things, but they are part of the story, just as they are part of life. I’m not sure I could do all that in a women’s magazine. And certainly not in a thousand words!



Many thanks to Vivien for sharing her experience. To whet your appetite, here is the blurb for her novel.


Almost thirty years ago, Kate’s dream came true. After years of struggling, she was finally pregnant following pioneering IVF. But the dream came at a cost. Neither Kate nor her husband Dan could have known the price they would have to pay to fulfil their cherished wish of having their own family.

Now, years later, their daughter Natalie is getting married and is fulfilling her own dream of marrying her childhood sweetheart. Natalie knows she won’t be like most brides as she travels down the aisle in her wheelchair, but it’s the fact her father won’t be there to walk beside her that breaks her heart.

Her siblings, Ollie, Beth and Jenny, gather around Natalie, but it isn’t just their father who is missing from their lives… as the secrets that have fractured the family rise to the surface, can they learn to forgive each other before it’s too late?


BUY FROM AMAZON here


About Vivien Brown

Vivien Brown lives in west London with her husband and two cats. She worked for many years in banking and accountancy, and then, after the birth of twin daughters, made a career switch and started working with young children, originally as a childminder but later in libraries and children’s centres, promoting the joys of reading and sharing books through storytimes and book-based activities and training sessions. She has written many short stories for the women’s magazine market and a range of professional articles and book reviews for the nursery and childcare press, in addition to a ‘how to’ book based on her love of solving cryptic crosswords. Now a full time writer, working from home, Vivien is combining novel-writing and her continuing career in magazine short stories with her latest and most rewarding role as doting grandmother.



Monday, 23 July 2018

Smile Please



A few weeks ago, I  decided to have some new author photos done. Not because I don't like the ones I'm using but because I've had them for a while now and it's time for a change. I don't want to be that person who, on being met in the flesh, has someone whispering after they've left, "They look a bit like their photographs but I bet it was taken a few years ago."

Not that I've ever done that of course :-)

What I really wanted was a photograph that was reasonably flattering while not trying to make me look younger/more intelligent/more attractive. I just wanted to look like the best version of me now (not five years ago).

This sounds easy enough but it actually isn't because I'm not photogenic. Really I'm not. The photos of me that I choose to put on my blog or on social media will have been the only good one out of many duff ones. I hate my photo being taken for various reasons a) in repose, my expression looks hangdog b) I look better when I'm smiling but it always looks lopsided and, if I smile too long, it becomes rictus c) my fine, flyaway hair, means any outdoor shots are a nightmare d) I look awful side view.

Poor photographer.

But then I told myself not to be so silly. I only needed one good photograph - two at most. The other ninety eight could be consigned to the recycle bin. Surely it was possible. With this thought in mind, I put out a query on Facebook. Did anyone know of a photographer who was a) local b) could put me at my ease c) could give me one good picture. I had lots of suggestions, some of whom I had to discount because they were too far away and I don't like travelling. 'Stressed out' wasn't the author image I had in mind!

Then friend and author, Deirdre Palmer, came to my rescue (Deirdre was guest on my blog last week and  you can read her guest post here). She'd recently had some author photos done by a family friend, Sue Kwiatkowska, who is a wedding photographer. Why didn't I try her? I really like Deirdre's author photo as she looks relaxed and natural. It was exactly the sort of photo I'd had in mind, so I bit the bullet and rang her. A few days later Sue arrived on my doorstep with camera in hand.




I was more than a bit nervous but Sue was friendly and professional. It wasn't long before she'd put me at my ease. She established which areas would would work best light-wise (the conservatory, the dining room and a corner of my garden) and then, after a chat to find out what exactly I wanted, the photo-shoot began. Surprisingly, after a very short while, I found that I was beginning to enjoy myself. Sue's a joy to work with and I often forgot there was a horrible camera pointed at my face. An hour later, we were finished and then I had a wait of a week while Sue chose the best ones to send me.

When the link to my photographs dropped into my inbox, I was dreading it. I scrolled through them and there were the inevitable ones that I didn't like (nothing to do with Sue - purely my own vanity) but, in amongst them, were a few I really liked and I'll share my favourites with you here.



I think there's something here for every author eventuality. Now I just need to get a book published!

If you're looking to have some author photos done and live in the South East, you can view Sue's website here.


Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Who's for a Dirty Weekend? Guest Post Deirdre Palmer


It's always a pleasure to have returning guests on my blog. Today, it's the turn of my good friend and author, Deirdre Palmer. It isn't just Deirdre who is making a second appearance though - her two great books, Dirty Weekend and Moonshine (both set in the 60s) are also having another outing. Check out their fabulous new covers! 

If you haven't already read Deirdre's novels, I'll let her tell you a little more about them. Over to you, Deirdre.




When Wendy heard I was re-launching two of my books, she kindly invited me onto her blog to spread the word. Thanks, Wendy!

They say ‘write what you know’ and that was the advice I had in mind when I wrote Dirty Weekend. It’s also said that if you remember the sixties, you weren’t there. Well, I was there, and I do remember, which made this book a whole lot of fun to write!

Dirty Weekend was taken up by my publisher at the time, and looked after very well, as was Moonshine later. Recently, with the future of those books with the publisher looking uncertain, I took the difficult decision to liberate them from their contracts and send them back into the world with a fresh new look. The stories might be set in the 1960s but the problems that face the characters are universal and just as relevant today.

Without giving away too much of the plot, in Dirty Weekend, Jeanette doesn’t see the weekend in Brighton as just a bit of fun. For her it’s an escape from the unspoken horrors of her home-life. In Moonshine, Beverly’s first experience of unrequited love sends her emotions and actions into free-fall, almost wrecking the holiday on a Torbay caravan site. Also in Moonshine, an unexpected find on a removals job pitches Terry into agonies of indecision when he learns that doing ‘the right thing’ is never that straightforward.

But it’s not all gloom, far from it. Themes of friendship, loyalty, love and sex, run through both books, and there’s a whole lot of laughter, too. At least, I hope my readers find plenty to laugh at!


Here’s a taster from Dirty Weekend.  The grim reality of arriving in Brighton without booking a B&B beforehand has just struck home…

“The room was fantastically grim, Mark thought, looking about. For a start, it was up four flights of creaky stairs and slotted in under the eaves so that you couldn’t stand up in the parts where the ceiling sloped down. The bed was missing a leg and had a fishing tackle box supporting the fourth corner, and the bedspread thing thrown over the blankets must once have had a pattern on it but had migrated into a murky mixture of oranges and browns with no distinction between the two. As for the mattress, well, he didn’t even want to think about that, let alone take a butcher’s at it. He couldn’t see any actual dirt anywhere, but everything in the room was so worn out it must have pre-dated the D-Day landings.
Remembering Terry’s prior claim to this room as his and Carol-Anne’s love-nest, Mark laughed to himself. Terry seemed not to have noticed the state of the place, or if he did, he didn’t care. He definitely hadn’t spotted the fishing tackle box, but there was no point in bringing it up now.
Yes, on balance, he approved of Terry’s version of tonight’s sleeping arrangements. The girls’ room across the road in Pier View was probably a damn sight better than this one – it could hardly be worse – so all he’d have to worry about, providing Jeanette didn’t take it into her head to spoil the party, was getting into Pier View and up those stairs without having his collar felt by the landlady.”
© Deirdre Palmer 2015



Dirty Weekend and Moonshine are available from Amazon.




Deirdre is the author of seven novels and a collection of short stories, writing under her own name and as Zara Thorne.  She is published by Crooked Cat Books, and independently. 

To find out more about Deirde, visit her website